“Nimona” is the graphic novel I didn’t know I needed. Set in a fantastical medieval kingdom of dragons, knights and science fairs, Noelle Stevenson’s story centers around Nimona, an impulsive shape shifter keen on being the new sidekick to Lord Ballister Blackheart, the kingdom’s most notorious supervillain. As they set out to wreak havoc, they clash with Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the greatest knight in the land and Blackheart’s arch nemesis, and the Institution, a shadowy organization regulating heroics that might not be as pure as it seems.
First off, how great are these names? This story is undeniably self-aware of its mashup of the fantasy, science fiction and superhero genres, and has no reservations with poking fun at itself, hence the crazy and highly descriptive names. Don’t let the genres scare you off. This story has a wide range of appeal, whether the aforementioned genres are typically your taste or not.
Stevenson first wrote and drew this story as an episodic web comic before adapting it into a sleek, fully fleshed-out graphic novel this past spring. Her art style has stolen my heart. It’s simple, but oh-so-stylized and absolutely gorgeous to flip through. There is a certain indie, handmade vibe to “Nimona,” with all of the dialogue appearing handwritten and the pages packed with tiny, thoughtful details like that of an avid notebook doodler.
Nimona isn’t your typical main character. We know next to nothing about this adorable punk at first and neither does Blackheart. She continually sidesteps talking about her mysterious past and distracts with her equal parts rowdy and deadpan self’s shenanigans, much to Blackheart’s chagrin.
Blackheart is far from a simple supporting character. He is a man of science and with a strict adherence to chivalry when he fights the forces of good. It was strangely compelling to read a villain who refused to kill civilians or cheat in battle. If anything, Blackheart was the most moral character of the bunch. Unlike Nimona, we get to know quite a bit about him right off the bat, most interestingly the reason behind his vendetta with Goldenloin.
Our resident white knight Goldenloin was consciously made to be something of a caricature of a stereotypical “good guy,” mostly for comedy’s sake, but he quickly showed just as much depth and complexity as our other two main characters.
Don’t ask me to choose a favorite character among these three, not even including the small, yet lively supporting cast. I loved them all so much, it was too easy to get sucked into the story.
While the art style initially drew me in, it was the well-crafted story that had me hooked two pages in. This story is packed with so much deadpan humor, physical comedy and witty dialogue. Even so, entire pages would go by without the characters speaking and scenes would still manage to pack a massive emotional punch when I wasn’t in actual giggle fits reading.
The best aspect of Stevenson’s writing was that it started out as a light-hearted, offbeat comedy tinged with a bit of mystery, then seamlessly spiraled into an unexpectedly emotionally charged thrill ride with a deeply satisfying ending. “Nimona” is wonderfully wicked and exceptionally bizarre, and I highly recommend that you treat yourself to it.